Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure

1-IMG_1657-002When I left my former “Motherland,” I was allowed to take anything I wanted – as long as I could pack it into two suitcases per person (actually, diamonds were not allowed, but I never had them; as for gold, the limit was one item per person, so my wedding ring qualified).  For a family of three, this translated into six suitcases of bare necessities, and I cried packing 39 years of my life into them. I kept putting things in and taking them out, rearranging, pushing and pressing, but, in the end, all the treasures (or keepsakes) that made it into my suitcases were pictures: my parents’ and grandparents’, my sister’s and me, and my daughter’s as a baby and a toddler – one small album in all.  The rest I gave out to friends and family who stayed behind. 5945 hdr(Many of them left later, too, leaving their treasures to somebody else or throwing them away.)

This experience influenced me in two ways: one – I no longer have attachments to things, no matter how excited I might be at the time of their acquisition; two — memories became my treasures, and I have accumulated numerous photo albums to help me keep them alive.

Will anybody in my family be interested in my treasures after I’m gone? Probably not. Still, I spend countless hours with my camera (and later with my computer), taking, editing, and arranging my pictures.

5417 hThis is not to say that 23 years in America did not influence me at all.  Sure they did – from a city girl whose idea of adventure was going to the Black Sea and spending two weeks or so on the beach (those who’re watching the Sochi Olympics can see the kind of places I’m talking about :), I turned into a nature lover.

It’s hard to pinpoint how and when that happened. I remember laughing at my husband because of his love of bird watching. I recall complaining about sleeping in a tent beside a loudly babbling creek (well, at the age of 62, I don’t feel like sleeping in a tent now either:)) and hiking through places that, in my view, had nothing going for them – no art museums, no concert halls, not even movie theaters (!) – except for woods, rivers, wide open spaces, or canyons, while tiredly staring at my husband’s back.

But at some point, a miracle happened.

One day, I suddenly caught myself enjoying a dramatic Midwestern sunset.

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Then I noticed the cobalt blue of Colorado sky and the monumental and imperturbable silhouettes of its mountains. Later yet, intricate shapes of ice floes floating down the Missouri River attracted my attention. And then, one day, I realized that seeing these everyday wonders had become a necessity for me and also, part of my memories – my keepsakes.

Of course, it could be that spending eight hours a day under the artificial lights of the library where I work has something to do with that, too:). Yet no matter, I crave walking along a trail, watching birds, and trying to find anything that would qualify for a photo.

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Well, I still crave culture, too – music and paintings, singing and architecture.

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But, if you think about it, it’s just another side of nature, man-made, so to speak, and at its best, it is amazing and beautiful in its own right – something that we should treasure, too.

So, here they are, my treasures. What are yours?

P.S. Those who’d like to see more of my treasured memories, click here.

©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic or Remembrance of Years Passed

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living in this country for 23 years. 1-IMG_1657-002For some time now, I’ve been thinking about commemorating this event. Yet, so far, nothing original has come to my mind but publishing a brief chronicle of my years here.

After all, Marco Polo wrote his travels, Thoreau his journal, and I my (illustrated) diary.                                                      I hope you like it 🙂

  

July 19, 1990

1-small__537921148 Arrived in Columbia, Missouri.  A group of people in shorts met us at the local airport — presumably, our sponsors.  They don’t speak Russian and I don’t speak English, so it’s hard to know for sure.

July 4, 1990

1-IMG_2021 Americans are celebrating their independence.  I’ve never studied American history, so I’m not quite sure from whom.  The temperature is 41 degrees Celsius.  They measure everything in Fahrenheit, and my thermometer reads 105 – which makes me feel even worse.

August 18, 1990

1-IMG_6871-001 A small tornado hit the town.  Nobody got killed, but several houses lost their roofs.  Some people say that we may have an earthquake here soon, too.  Reconsidering my coming here.  As bad as it was in Russia, we never had either one!

September 6, 1990

No Russian-speaking engineers needed.  Had two choices: going to work for Merry Maids or a nursing home.  Chose the latter.  Now, I’m a nurse’s aide working the third shift.  Which is good — the residents sleep and nobody speaks English.

October 31, 1990

1-DSC00833small-001 A neighbor with two children dressed in black cloaks came to the door looking for candy.  They didn’t look hungry, so I’m very suspicious.  After they left, I looked outside – the street was full of children searching for sweets.  Apparently, they have shortages in America, too.

November 22, 1990

1-IMG_6806Got invited to a Thanksgiving dinner.  The food was baked turkey and red potatoes.  Even in Russia, where red was very popular, potatoes were white!  I skipped the potatoes and ate the turkey that was stuffed with bread.  That way, I suppose, they can feed more people.

December 25, 1990

IMG_9757 American Christmas comes before New Year’s. In Russia, it came after, and nobody celebrated it.

February, 1991

Learned some English phrases, quit the nursing home, and got a job at a public library shelving books – that way I do not have to talk to anybody, although one young woman did ask me where the restroom was.  It was just around the corner, but I panicked and gestured towards the reference desk.

September, 1991

1-matreshka What a language!  Half of the words have multiple meanings, while the other half sound the same but mean different things.  Besides, no matter how I twist my tongue, I can’t roar the American “r,” or hiss their “the.”  My “think” comes out as “sink,” and even when I say “Hi,” people ask where I’m from.

October, 1991

1-IMG_1466 American expressions are weird, too.  When did they ever see “raining cats and dogs”?   And what about “give a leg up.”  Why would I lift my leg if somebody needs a ride home?   Also, “it costs an arm and a leg.”  We never paid with our limbs! Yesterday somebody said, “I dropped the ball.”  I looked.  No ball.  What did she drop?  Where?

December 1991

Got promoted to the Front Desk.  Understand about 25%.  Today, a patron asked about groundhogs.  I knew “ground” and also “hogs,” so I sent him to a grocery store.  Expect to be fired every day.

October 1992

1-2009_0106gooddrbkdisplay0001 Started reading books in English.   Also, made my first “Library will close in fifteen minutes” announcement.   Everybody left immediately — including some staff.  They said that it “sounded scary.”

December 1993

Decided to go back to school and get a Library Science degree.  Went to the local University and filled out an application.  Spelled “Library” just fine but not “Sience.”  Got a funny look from the admission staff.

December 1994

Took the GRE.  Scored 95% on Math and 15% on English — confused “hair” with “hare,” “tale” with “tail,” “wonder” with “wander,” “desert” with “dessert,” and “whipping” with “weeping.”  Passed anyway — they counted the average.

January 1994

1-IMG_6736 Going to school part time, working at the library full-time – now at the reference desk.  Yesterday, a nice-looking gray-haired lady asked me about whales.  I took her to the animal section.  Who knew she was going to Wales?  No time to eat.  Lost five pounds.

December 1995

IMG_1076 Became a naturalized American citizen.  At work, a patron asked how to “dress” a deer. I said, “Do you mean clothes or stuffing?”  Another patron wanted pictures of a stagecoach.  I knew “stage” and “coach” (like coaches in sports) but couldn’t imagine them together and had to ask for help.   Lost another five pounds.

September 1996

Last semester.  Preparing for the Comprehensive Exam and dating an American.  Ran out of “I was sick” excuses and told my professor that my paper was late because I was getting married.  He understood.  Not sure what I’ll tell him next time.  Maybe, “I’m getting divorced”?   Lost five more pounds.

December 1996

clinton Got my Master’s degree!  Voted for Clinton and he won.  Also, received a marriage proposal.  Well, I don’t know about that, but it felt good.

Fall 1997

Was promoted to a reference librarian – doubled the salary and the fear of being fired. Married the American, too!  Now, I speak English 24/7.  Gained five pounds.

Fall 1998

1-IMG_0006 sharp My husband does a great job of correcting my English — especially when we argue.  Also, dreamt in English for the first time.  Is that what happens when you marry an American citizen?  Gained five more pounds.

Fall 1999

1-IMG_7485 A man wearing a “lion” cloth tried to enter the library today. As soon as I got home, I described the event to my husband.  He was very surprised — not with the guy, but with the cloth.  Then he said, “Did you mean “loin?”  Gained five more pounds.

Spring 2000

1-IMG_1229 We moved to a house by the edge of the woods [see a story about that later].  Now, I’m spending all my free time landscaping our yard.  Lost five pounds.

Fall 2000

1-IMG_1322_1 Deer ate everything I planted.  We voted for Al Gore, but he lost.

Summer 2001

Tried new plants, and so did the deer.  The plants are gone; the deer are still around.

Summer 2002

Found one kind of bush that the deer don’t like.  Planted them everywhere.

Spring 2004

IMG_1268 Went bird watching with my husband.  Saw 3 ducks, 5 geese, and one woodpecker – all of which live in our neighborhood, too.  Put up a bird feeder in the back yard, so we don’t have to drive anywhere.

November 2004

1-SCopier - C13042615261 No bird feeder survives.  We keep losing them to the deer, raccoons, and squirrels. Voted for John Kerry and he lost, too.

Summer 2005

1-IMG_1550 Deer destroyed everything, again, so no landscaping is needed.  Used my free time to write about the deer eating my “lushes” plants and sent it to the local newspaper.  The story got published, although they replaced “lushes” with “lush.”

Spring 2007

Now, we are having moles and “aunts” problems.  Wrote about that, too.  My husband read my story and said, “I think you meant ‘ants.’”

Summer 2008

IMG_1879 Continue writing.  This time, I wrote how my husband and I “tied the nut” eleven years ago, and how “exiting” that was.  Showed it to my husband.  After he stopped laughing, he suggested replacing “nut” with “knot” and “exiting” with “exciting.”

Summer 2010

1-IMG_1676 Wrote an essay about what life was like especially for Jews.  The essay got published in The Christian Science Monitor, and I got my first fan letter.  Opened it with shaking hands … and read that the only thing missing in my life now was “converting to Christianity.”

Spring 2013

1-nikita Spend all my free time writing.  No time for working in the yard, watching movies, and even weighing myself.  Is that what it means to be a writer?

Here you have it: twenty-three years in 1250 words. Do I feel nostalgic about them?  I’ll let you decide 🙂

©Svetlana Grobman. All Rights Reserved